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Scepticism over budget

By Khethukuthula Xulu

Medium-term budget policy statement leaves SA with little to celebrate.

Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana giving 2023 budget speech
Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana. Photo: GCIS.

There is nothing to celebrate in the medium-term budget policy statement (MTBPS).

This is the view of Inkatha Freedom Party’s (IFP) spokesperson on Finance, Inkosi Mzamo Buthelezi, echoed by other political parties and economic experts.

Buthelezi, who called the MTBPS “just another uneventful box-ticking exercise”, said Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana’s speech left much to be desired, adding that it lacked strategies to revive the economy.

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Buthelezi said the IFP remained deeply concerned about the state of the nation and the continued mismanagement of the economy by the ruling party.

The IFP wishes to underline that there is nothing to celebrate in the MTBPS. The future of our beloved country is looking bleak, with an economic outlook that offers little hope. The issues of escalating debt, the ever-increasing cost to service this debt, and the alarming debt-to-GDP ratio are alarming signs of a government failing in its fiscal responsibilities.

He added that the government recently highlighted that the country does not have money, yet it was continuing to borrow money, “therefore digging our country into a debt hole that will leave the young people of our nation with nothing when inheriting this economy”.

“In his address, Minister Godongwana failed to address one of the most pressing issues facing our nation — job creation.

“South Africa’s unemployment crisis continues to worsen, and we have heard nothing concrete from the ANC-led government on how they plan to create jobs for our struggling citizens,” he said.

Buthelezi added that South Africans were not lazy to work and needed a hand-up, and not a hand-out.
Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow minister of finance, Dr Dion George, shared similar sentiments with Buthelezi, saying that the budget statement was another indication that the government had no effective plan to accelerate economic growth, resolve relentless blackouts, stabilise debt, reign in runaway expenditure, support vulnerable South Africans and combat corruption.

Though the hour is late. The DA notes the minister’s announcement of the government’s plan to accelerate private-public partnerships to rebuild South Africa’s crumbling infrastructure.

“The DA supports this initiative and has already made proposals to implement this model.”

“This is where the good news ends,” said George.

He said despite the president’s commitment in his 2023 State of the Nation’s Address to restructure the size of the State, this was not reflected in the numbers.

“The public sector wage bill continues to balloon unsustainably”.

“This MTBPS was confirmation that the government simply does not care about the plight of battling South African households who are unable to put enough food on their tables.

“There was no mention of the so-called food security plan of action to protect consumers from the burden of skyrocketing food prices.”

“The minister could very easily have expanded the zero-VAT rated basket of food to bring immediate relief to South African households. He could also have reduced the taxes and levies on fuel, which would have provided further relief,” he said.

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Socioeconomic commentator and senior lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) Graduate School of Business and Leadership, Dr Bhasela Yalezo, said South Africans should not have expected much of a significant change from the budget tabled by the minister in February.

However, he said what was disappointing was that the changes that were announced painted a negative picture of the South African economic state.

He said it was a very depressing update.

There is no talk on reducing costs for instance by reducing the Cabinet members, eliminating one of the two Parliaments, combining municipalities in order to have effective planning; none of that came up. There is nothing significant that gives us hope as South Africans.

He added that it was disappointing to hear that the country’s tax collection was low and that the government was still looking at borrowing more money.

“When will the borrowing end, because if the economy doesn’t improve we will be stuck in the borrowing cycle?”